(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is set to travel to Colombia from 6 to 11 September. He will be the third Pope to visit the Latin American nation in the footsteps of Pope Paul VI in 1964 and Pope Saint John Paul II in 1986.
Francis begins his trip in the capital Bogota and also will visit the cities of Villavicencio, Medellin and Cartagena.
It is a crucial moment for Colombia, which is in the throes of implementing a peace agreement with FARC rebels after a 52-year internal conflict that has left over 260,000 people dead, 60,000 unaccounted for and over 7 million displaced.
The former British Ambassador to the Holy See, Nigel Baker, who currently heads the South America Department at the Foreign Office in London, told Linda Bordoni that Pope Francis’ visit there is an extremely important sign of encouragement for the nation’s peace process and will help promote reconciliation:
Listen to the full interview:
Baker described the papal visit to Colombia as “extremely important” because it comes in the wake of the extraordinary progress and journey that the nation has made towards peace by signing a deal with the main guerrilla group, the FARC, which many thought would have been impossible.
“The extraordinary progress that has been made needs to be acknowledged,” Baker said.
Another key theme of Pope Francis’ visit to Colombia is to encourage the process of reconciliation after such a long and bitter civil war.
In this context, Baker said it was “incredibly important” that the Pope is meeting victims of the conflict and leading prayers for national reconciliation during his visit.
Staying on the theme of encouragement, Baker said the people of Colombia need “to turn the page from the difficult past” and recognize the huge possibilities and “bright future” that peace can bring to their nation.